31 March 2010

Throughout the MyWar exhibition, FACT will be publishing guest blog posts from looking at war and politics in the media. Matthew Taylor is a "twentysomething lawyer with interests in arts, music, philosophy, politics, and sci/tech..."
It may sound like a silly question, but it's actually perfectly sensible: Microsoft PowerPoint is as much an tool of the modern "warfighter" as GPS navigation and MRE rations.

In fact, it's now become something junior officers in the US military complain about - because, some say, they're spending more time making PowerPoint presentations than patrolling or engaging with local people. It prompted Thomas X. Hammes, former USMC Colonel, and leading counterinsurgency theorist, to devote an essay in the Armed Forces Journal to the topic of military PowerPoint use.

But as well as making war, PowerPoint can make art. David Gaffney's Destroy Powerpoint is a multi-media exploration of the softwareís various roles in our society, which he presented at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Bluecoat Literature Festival in Liverpool last year (Here's an article he wrote for the Guardian about the work). The American artist David Byrne, by contrast, has adopted PowerPoint as a media for his work, saying,

"It started off as a joke...but then the work took on a life of its own as I realized I could create pieces that were moving, despite the limitations of the "medium."

Military PowerPoint presentations themselves can give a curious window into a world most of us will never see. After the US Marine Corps' 1st Battalion, 5th Marines returned from Afghanistan, they prepared an after action report - in Powerpoint.

You can download the presentation [.pptx], and take a look at some basic (and some not so basic) tactics for counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan. The motto of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines is 'Make Peace, or Die'; I doubt they mean from "PowerPoint poisoning."